Wow! Can it be a whole decade since we started down the path to establish a newspaper? It has been 10 years since we began our journey to create a paper. We put out our first issue in August. We filed for our business license in June. It was a moment of faith when I plunked that $25 down and I’m here to confess I thought this was a crazy venture.

The decision to bring back the weekly paper created by the vacuum that came with the closing of the venerable Hancock County Courier was not one taken lightly.. And, while I had started my career in journalism at the now defunct (but, much loved) PANHANDLE PRESS and the recently shuttered (and iconic) HANCOCK COUNTY COURIER, it had been a long time; the newspaper business had changed; and I was very uncertain about my ability to make it happen. But, my daughter, Shannon, had every faith in her Mom and herself we could pull it off. She had put in time as an advertising salesperson for the HERALD-STAR and then gone on to become Marketing Manager for the HARV at Mountaineer.

I wouldn’t have taken the leap had it not been for two life-changing events. I fractured my C-1 disk plunging over a hill only a year after I had lost my job at Mountaineer. It was a miracle I survived. I should have been dead or paralyzed from the neck down. I remember as the car turned over thinking “I’m going to die.” For those of you who may wonder what your last thoughts are? Mine was not fear for me, it was for what Shannon and Doug would go through. But, God had other plans for me and after four months contained in a hard collar I had a lot of time to think. Suddenly, it wasn’t about me, but what I could give back to my community and use the knowledge I had gained for something other than power and money. But, the steps necessary to establish a readership; get a postal permit; do effective direct mail all boggled my mind and shook my confidence enough that I couldn’t pull the trigger.

A year later, another blow hit. I found I had breast cancer. I thought I had used up my “bad things happen” quota. But while going through surgery and radiation (I didn’t need chemo) I decided that life was short and I needed to do something that mattered to me; to the community; and to Shannon who was constantly saying “we can do it…..we can do it.

We set out on our own venture We opted not to purchase the COURIER. I knew we didn’t need and couldn’t support a building. Technology meant our office was our home and we would write, design and send the publication to the publisher. Getting the mailing permit from the postal department was a mountain we never would have climbed without Bill Kiefer who would become my husband. The mountains of information required; the federal loopholes we jumped through seemed unsurmountable. But we did it. We pursued subscribers the only way I knew how……like I was going after a voter. We set up stands and offered free papers; we placed papers around the county; we gave three issues away hoping people would subscribe for a forth. They did..

Journalism isn’t supposed to be personal, but to us it was. I wrote my column like you and I were sitting down for coffee and I was telling you what was on my mind: my ideas, my worries, my happiness. It all spilled out and I found people kinda liked the raw honesty in a world where people pretended everything was fine. Originally defined as “good news” I came to find out and all news was not good and it was our responsibility to report that information as well. I suddenly realized that being the watchdog for the county was a big responsibility.

And, then came the pandemic. The price of printing the newspaper went up three times in a year making it impossible for us to make a profit and then break even. Advertisers were struggling without customers; and print newspapers were closing their doors. We didn’t want to give up, but we knew things couldn’t work the way they had. 1,000 newspapers were delivered to my door each Wednesday morning where I placed 1,000 labels them on and delivered them to the post office. Shannon then delivered to the retail outlets who were none to happy to have her out and about when the edict was to stay home.

The WV Press connected us with Tyler Channel who was on the cutting edge of a new business model. Digital newspapers. The concept made great sense and was more efficient for me as a writer. Readers could have their news in real time and “old” news was a thing of the past. It always drove me crazy that readers could read about the Commissioners’ meeting on Friday in a daily paper, and couldn’t get my report until five days later.

I proved at 70 that I could indeed learn new technology as we transitioned to digital. Shannon re-affirmed that her mom, while a pretty good writer was an imbecile when it came to technology. But we persevered and transitioned all our print subscribers to digital. While we loved it, a lot of our readers didn’t and it hurt my heart when they begged us to bring back the printed version….even just my column.

As we grew, we knew there were more opportunities, new perspectives and a younger audience we had to attract. The solution: Abbi Sayre Elliott, holder of a bachelor’s degree in business management from West Liberty and member of the Honors College and mother of two……and Shannon’s daughter and my granddaughter. She was just the breath of fresh air and the innovator of new ideas we needed. Abbi became our Operations Manager and one of three owners of HOMETOWN NEWS.

Thanks to you, dear reader who not only read our newspaper, but make the news that makes the paper.

Tamara, Shannon and Abbi